Monday, June 30, 2014

5 Reasons Religious Freedom Didn't Really "Win"

I'll be honest with you, I've been a slow simmering pot of rage this morning over the SCOTUS ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. For those of you living under a proverbial rock, corporations with a small enough board to share a singular religious belief (let's be honest, Christians are the only ones who need apply) have the right to deny healthcare benefits to their employees if they feel that the coverage doesn't align with their personal, collective religious beliefs.

I'm outraged for all sorts of reasons, but I'm not even going to start addressing the obvious. What I really want to address is the mindset of some people who believe that religious freedom won today. They think their counterarguments are logical and sound, and that this is a step in the right direction. It's a protection of religious liberty as opposed to a violation of human rights. It's an easing of Christian persecution. It's a way of putting big bad government back in it's place.

No, no, and still more no.

Here's a few reasons why you may think religious freedom won today (and why it really didn't).
  1. Christians shouldn't have to pay for contraception if it doesn't align with their beliefs. That's religious freedom!
Okay, so you believe that the people (key word here, PEOPLE) at the head of the corporation should not have to use their hard earned money to pay for contraception. Here's a little fact nugget for you: they don't! The money used for health care coverage is not, in fact, coming directly from their paychecks. They are free to do whatever they deem right and Christian with their personal money, which is indeed a form of religious freedom.

However, that isn't enough for them. They are seeking personhood for their for-profit corporation, so they have control over their employees freedom to healthcare. They are essentially using the money they make off their low-wage workers to restrict their healthcare options that they should have been assured of under the ACA.


     2.  They're only restricting access to "abortion" inducing contraception, I can get behind                 corporate personhood if it means the right to life.  

So perhaps corporate personhood doesn't bother you, so long as it's for a righteous cause, and that cause is the right to life. Way to stand your moral ground. Hobby Lobby wants to deny coverage access for Plan B and IUD contraception, because they consider these two form of contraception to be abortion, and you stand by that.

Unfortunately, I have some bad news for you: it's called science.

 Here's the thing, abortion and contraception are not the same thing. In order to terminate a pregnancy (abortion) there needs to be an actual pregnancy (implanted fertilized egg) in the first place. An IUD prevents pregnancy the same way spermicide would: an egg is never fertilized by the sperm, there is no pregnancy. On the extreme off chance that the egg is fertilized it never implants on the uterine wall (pregnancy). Plan B also prevents pregnancy by preventing fertilization or ovulation and on the off chance that an egg is fertilized, once again, no implantation (pregnancy).

     3. There's plenty of other contraceptive options, are those not enough?

In a word, no.

But here, let me explain why using myself as the prime example.

I have a horrific history with hormonal birth control. The patch, the ring, the pill, the shot - in all their variations - release hormones into your system to prevent ovulation. These chemical cocktails work really well for many women, but not for all women. I suffered mild to severe depression, at my worst struggling with suicidal thoughts, as a side effect of hormonal birth control. I tried a few different kinds, all with varying and horrifying results (not to mention getting pregnant during a switchover because I couldn't stay on any one type and was searching for an effective, safe method of birth control).

Is there a type of birth control out there other than the non-hormonal IUD that would suit my needs? Maybe. Would I find it before the search for the right birth control destroyed my life or caused me to commit suicide? Again, maybe, but I don't think anyone should have to make that gamble because they can't afford to do otherwise.

    4. No one is being forced to work at Hobby Lobby; if you don't like their coverage options               don't work there.

Ah, now here's a good one. The people who work for Hobby Lobby don't have to work for Hobby Lobby. Women working at a craft store chain for near minimum wage clearly have options, so why don't they just go out and find another job if they need comprehensive reproductive healthcare that badly.

As a young woman who worked those barely-making-ends-meet jobs for years on end, let me enlighten you as to how promising Hobby Lobby employees "options" are: not very.

When you're working a minimum wage job and hardly scraping by, there's not a whole lot of time to hunt for something better. You're trying to survive. You can't jump from one place to the next because it makes you look unreliable. You need the job you have. Then you get small raises every now and again and so starting back at the bottom of minimum wage (even if you'd only be taking a $1.00 or less pay cut) to get a new job because your healthcare is gutted isn't a viable option. The suggestion that you can purchase the type of birth control you need outside of your healthcare plan is a sadistic joke.

These are real people's lives we're talking about, and your hypothetical jobs aren't going to save them.

    5. This ruling is a win for religious freedom because it means government can't force an                   employer to set aside deeply held religious beliefs to conform to ACA regulations.

First, go back to point one and realize that an "employer" as a person is not the same as a corporate entity. Continue.

A lot of conservatives want to hail this as a win in religious freedom versus government control. Here is why that is all sorts of wrong. The ACA is not a perfect system, but it's not one that tramples religious freedom

Yes, the government set up the ACA. It is a way of providing comprehensive healthcare that does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of religious or moral beliefs. It allows everyone fair access to healthcare, and in accordance with religious freedom, it will not force upon you any type of healthcare that conflicts with your deeply held religious beliefs.

Don't like science and choose to believe that an IUD is abortion? Guess what, no one is going to force you onto a table while a doctor inserts one against your will! Want to forgo contraception entirely? Go forth and multiply, you live in a country with tremendous religious freedom and should count yourself lucky. Family planning in accordance with your beliefs is a great example of what religious freedom is.

The Hobby Lobby ruling, on the other hand, severely limits the fair access to healthcare provided by the ACA. It robs women of  the right to choose the best reproductive healthcare as they and their healthcare professionals see fit. It infringes upon personal freedom in a way that cannot be ignored. Hobby Lobby actively seeks to control a group with less power and money, and that, my friends, is not religious freedom.

Religious freedom is all about personal choice and Hobby Lobby is all about taking away personal choice. It's hypocrisy at its worst.

Oh wait, no, Hobby Lobby suing over their "religious freedom" to deny contraceptive coverage to employees while simultaneously investing in actual abortion pills is probably a better example of hypocrisy at its worst.

So if you think religious freedom won today, maybe you should think again.
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